Khairy Shalaby, born in Kafr al-Shaykh in Egypts Nile Delta in 1938, has written seventy books, including novels, short stories, historical tales, and critical studies. The Lodging House was awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in 2003.
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superb modern arab novelOct. 3 2009
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Alawi's "The Yakoubian Building", puts the modern egyptian novel on the international map, justifyingly so. Of course, this novel,though extremely readable, is a far cry from the best of of the Mahfouz novels, like "Miramar", "Adrift on the Nile", or "Midaq alley", to name a few. As an Alexandrian Greek I have been devouring Egyptian novels with facination. Some of these have proved to be average, others rather disappointing. However the "lodging house" exceeds all expectations, not because it won the Mahfouz prize (others that won it are average), but because it compares with the best of the Egyptian master's novels
The story, in a way reminds one of Alawi's bestseller, but surpasses it in sophistication and ambition. It is the story of an expelled student who sinks into the underworld of a provincial town (damanhour) in a building which attracts the downtrodden. What happens next is the fusion of multiple stories, where pathos, eros, smells and characters interact, as the reader is drawn and enveloped into a real and fascinating world of senses. As this world unfolds, the reader feels there is no escape, and what is more, he does not want to make a break but experience's it to the inevitable bitter end. Superb.